Protecting the Chesapeake Bay with storm water runoff systems is a noble task, but the so-called “rain tax” that has been implemented to pay for it is easily Maryland’s most despisable fee. And now that the bills are actually coming in, property owners — particularly businesses — are up in arms.
Baltimore County business owners are the most fighting mad at the moment. They’re being charged according to the area of impervious surface on their properties, but those calculations are based on aerial photographs “taken from a fairly high location” from 2011, and all parking lots and roads are assumed to be impervious, whether they are stone or blacktop.
Frustrating, to be sure, but everyone should hate this new tax. Here’s why:
First of all, this storm water fee was dreamed up by state lawmakers, but its implementation is left up to the 10 counties where the tax is levied. That means that different counties are free to charge different amounts; from Frederick County, whose indignant Board of Community Commissioners set it at literally $.01 per property annually regardless of size or type; to Baltimore City, where the fee is assessed quarterly and non-single family properties are charged $18 per 1,050 sq ft of impervious surface.
Secondly, the fee is for the most part theoretically tied (rather logically) to the total area of impervious surface on a property, but most of the counties are exercising their right to charge different types of properties differently. So where a single-family residence may pay one rate, a business may pay another. Though it’s hard to imagine storm water itself making any such distinction.
By the way, seeing as this is ultimately about protecting the bay, you’d think that implementing storm water management practices on-site might reduce one’s fee, but so far it appears only Harford County has made a provision for that.
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